11 Reasons Never to Run a Fundraiser in Tanzania

Most of the funding for the Baby Home comes from the UK either through grants, child sponsorship or volunteers taking part in events. So I thought it would be a good idea to try to set up a fundraising event in Mwanza itself, a charity dinner aimed at richer local people, to raise money for the children’s food for the year, to be called Chakula kwa Chakula (Food for Food). There used to a generic charity ball here but it had been abandoned a few years before (clue 1!)  but we had never attempted anything like it. I was immediately joined by 2 very keen helpers who had previously been volunteers, Jolien and Phoebe, and we set out to have ourselves a fundraiser.  Here’s a number of reasons why we may not be attempting it again……

  1. Think of how you might do this in the UK. Check all the costings out online, compare them and hit the button on the best one to pay by card? In Tanzania, you can not arrange anything online as a) most businesses are not online and b) ,even if they do have access to emails, it is not appropriate to do business in that way. Everything must be face to face, following the leaving of a letter of introduction at the front desk; it must include a LOT of polite conversation groundwork first before you can broach the subject of what you want; and no firm details are ever confirmed on a first meeting.   The set-up of an event here takes at least 10 times as long as it would at home. Here’s Jolien and I, togged up in safety vests, to try and get some cheap beer out of Serengeti Brewery, 20 km out of town.
  2. There is often a complicated hierarchy of who should be asked to donate things -even if you know its someone else who will actually make the decision. If you do not follow the hierarchy, you will not get what you have asked for. You will hear “ah, if only you had come to me first, I could have given you this. Now I cannot offer you anything”
  3. There is no culture of charitable giving in Tanzania. People support their own, often extended, families but not other people’s families. In particular, if a baby is left to die somewhere, then that should be its destiny. We’ve sort of interrupted that a bit by rescuing them so its our lookout if they then need to be fed.  In practice, this means that  shops/companies are not used to the concept of giving things away for free in exchange for publicity. We spent a long time explaining how that might work.
  4. Tanzanians do not like to disappoint so will often offer or agree to things, and then, are likely to change their mind about whether the item  is actually free or indeed available. This can be a tad stressful in the week before the event.
  5. There is no culture of raffle draws so people tended not to understand how they got nothing for their money but a slip of paper, and how that might turn out to be a 2 day safari in the Serengeti. Also 50% of the population are Muslim so do not gamble. Hence selling was a little slow until we hammered the international schools.
  6. A 2 day Serengeti safari with night in a luxury lodge is not as special a prize in Tanzania as it is in the UK!
  7. An open auction bidding on items is completely alien to most Tanzanians – what were we thinking!
  8. Tanzanian women in particular think they know better than the mzungu (white folk) which, coupled with item no 4 above, led to an almost disaster as the tent erected for the function comprised 3 small tents scattered around the field, rather than one large one as Mama Moringa thought we had failed to grasp how to hold a function. This did lead to an unfortunate incident on the morning of the event, when I discovered this, as my annual angry outburst left a selection of security guards amused and stunned, our administrator restraining me with a hand and Mama Moringa almost losing her big smile as I shouted ” Its December. Its raining. And there’s no roof. Where exactly were you going to hang the fairy lights we ordered? From the f***ing clouds?”
  9. Many descriptions of items offered are very loose – ” yes, I can get you a sound system/freezer for all the ice cream/a band. They’ll come on the night” so the sound system and dj were incredible but the chest freezer could only hold 2 buckets of ice-cream, not 6, and the half the band forgot and were doing something else on the night. Some items were great, like the generator in case the power supply failed (common occurrence in Mwanza), but we had to recruit 6 strong men from the market and borrow someone else’s truck to transport it.
  10. The day before the event a massive crocodile was fished out of the lake after it attacked and ate a fisherman just off the area we were having our event on. Extra security was required for the lakeside!
  11. Tanzanian staff are prone to taking things. One of the men putting up the decorations in the tent took the mobile charger we were using which left us without phone communication for most of the afternoon. A little loss of stock was to be expected and our Bar Manager was on the lookout . But, by around 1am, it turned in to a Keystone Cops special – two of the bar staff were drunk (the male almost incapable of standing); a bottle of vodka went in the 3 seconds it took me to bend down and pick up some litter, with Amy in hot pursuit it was found with a small stash of other bottles down by the water’s edge; I was chasing backwards and forwards after staff as they tried to stash full cider and beer bottles in the soda crates to take back to the bar next door; one crate was found behind a tree full of the starters from the tables; and then the really drunk one fell in to the ice water vat (size of a hot tub) that we were cooling wine in. Nothing to do but laugh at this stage.

But those with the least came forth the strongest. Local painters, who struggle to make a living trying to sell to tourists, gave us paintings and jewellery; local dancers gave their time for free in exchange for a dinner of rice and beans; and bar staff from the next club came over to help us decorate the tables 30 minutes before it started because Mama Moringa had wandered off to get her hair done and not left enough table coverings.

And Jolien’s beautiful smile got us a large lump of sponsorship from such Dutch miners.

And some people, like Don, who gave us our security guards for nothing, didn’t fancy the event but sent a secret bid of $400 for some Tanzanite ear-rings.

Volunteers joined in to organise everything and expats dug deep when bidding was going slow on the children’s art work.

And it was a lovely evening. Even the tent looked awesome by the time the decorating was done. We didn’t need to hang the fairy lights from the f-ing clouds after all!

And we raised £10,000 and secured commitments from some local companies and families to donate bags of rice, sugar and flour throughout the coming year.

But, a fortnight later as I still chase bids and drive round handing out the prizes too big to move on the night, I’m not sure I would do it again……


One thought on “11 Reasons Never to Run a Fundraiser in Tanzania

Comments are closed.